Uncovered: Cover Songs That Don’t Suck. Vol. II
by Kate Leib on November 13, 2013
Posted in: Folk, Music, My Shows, Rock
For the first installment of cover songs that don’t suck, CLICK HERE.
Stillness is the Move (Dirty Projectors) – Solange
Dirty Projectors’ unique genre melting experimental rock sound makes for excellent pop fodder, and who better to cover them than PBR&B pop diva Solange Knowles. In covering “Stillness is the Move”, Solange takes on one of the Dirty Projectors’ biggest hits on their critically acclaimed 2009 album, Bitte Orca, and her bold move pays off. Solange confidently contends with the Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian’s breathy, high pitched vocals, displaying a familiarity with the Dirty Projectors’ offbeat sound while adding a sultry smoothness to the song that is all her own. The looping twang of the guitar is a fresh reference to the original track and avoids sounding repetitive when paired with Solange’s dynamic vocal range. On a blind listen, the cover could pass as a Bitte Orca B-side or alternate take. If you can’t get enough of this jam, fear not! For this is only the beginning of the Solange/Projectors love connection. Set for release sometime next year, Solange’s follow up to 2012’s True EP will feature collaboration with Dirty Projectors’ lead singer David Longstreth.
Listen to Solange’s version of ‘Stillness is the Move’ here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x7wSlrwKJQ
Dark Eyes (Bob Dylan) – Dirty Projectors
From their live cover of Usher’s “Climax” to their recollection of Black Flag’s hardcore punk album Damaged in its entirety on 2007’s Rise Above, the Dirty Projectors have done their fair share of covers. You can fantasize all day about a stripped down reciprocal rendition of Solange’s “Losing You”, but in the mean time, the Dirty Projector’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “Dark Eyes” will have to suffice. While extremely talented in the songwriting and songswindling department, Bob Dylan’s raspy whine has never been easy on the ears (and I mean that in the best way possible). By the time Empire Burlesque was released in 1985, Dylan’s rambling folk act was long gone, having transitioned to electric guitars and rock n’ roll 20 years prior. Empire Burlesque was heavily produced—laden with cheesy blues hooks and too much cowbell—the lone exception being the last track, “Dark Eyes”, a song hastily written after Dylan passed by a hooker in the hallway of New York’s Plaza hotel. Featuring only Dylan on guitar and vocals, “Dark Eyes” is a delicate throwback to the sound of Dylan’s earlier days with each verse sandwiched between a sad harmonica melody. Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth is not terribly different from Bob Dylan in his odd demeanor, awkward stage presence, and unconventional vocal stylings, so the cover isn’t hard for him to pull off. The addition of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian’s sighing harmonies are a welcome compliment to a song originally filled with loneliness and sorrow.
Listen to DP’s Dylan rendition here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGY5yKHMjng
**For other cover versions of Dark Eyes: see Judy Davis drunkenly singing underneath a bathroom sink in the 1987 film, High Tide.
I Love How You Love Me (Phil Spector/The Paris Sisters)– Jeff Mangum/Neutral Milk Hotel
In 1997, between Neutral Milk Hotel releases, On Avery Island (1996) and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998), Jeff Mangum played a solo show at Jittery Joe’s in Athens, Georgia. The show was recorded and later released as a live album complete with Mangum’s commentary, audience banter, and a crying baby. (Pree’s baby perhaps?). Mangum credits the powerhouse producer, Phil Spector, before launching into a lo-fi acoustic cover of his song, “I Love How You Love Me”. Melted hearts ensue. Spector originally produced the song for girl-group, The Paris Sisters, leading to a top ten hit in 1961. It has the simplistic elements of a classic love song, and yet it exposes a selfish side of love that other ballads often do not, touching upon our human desire to be loved. The vulnerable, earnest yearning in Mangum’s voice captures the essence of “I Love How You Love Me” more honestly than Phil Spector could have ever imagined.
Watch Mangum’s cover live at Jittery Joe’s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISEcsPHOfDM
Swingin Party (The Replacements) – Lorde
If being cool’s a crime, then Lorde’s serving forever. The 17 year old burst onto the scene this June with her smart pop hit, ‘Royals’, and with the release of her first full length album, Pure Heroine in September, she handily proved herself as more than a one hit wunderkind. (see: White Teeth Teens, Ribs, Team, etc.) In singing about cliques, clubs, teams, fitting in, and standing out, Lorde has made it abundantly clear that she wants no part of the status symbol “love affair” that pervades hip hop and popular music culture, establishing herself as a mature musician in a sea of fame & wealth obsessed peers. On her first EP, The Love Club, Lorde confirmed her maturity and good taste by covering The Replacements’ song ‘Swingin Party’. Originally released in 1985 (eleven years before Lorde was born) on their critically acclaimed album, Tim, ‘Swingin Party’ is probably the last song you would want to play to get a party swingin. Frontman Paul Westerberg’s gloomy, self-deprecating lyrics evoke a sense of social resignation in the wake of senseless drinking, loneliness, and fear; “Bring your own lamp shade / somewhere there’s a party. / Here it’s never ending / can’t remember when it started. / Pass around the lampshade / there’ll be plenty enough room in jail.” One can only imagine how a Bring-Your-Own-Lampshade party with oft-inebriated Replacements might turn out. In her take, Lorde conveys the lyrics beautifully and confidently, her low voice backed by the soft build of an organ and what sounds like Paul Westerberg’s nervous heart beat pulsing throughout the song.
Listen to Lorde’s cover here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wavwT7paPs
Waking Up Drunk (Spider Bags) – Titus Andronicus
Long time Replacements fans Titus Andronicus are well versed in the beer soaked ballads of their punk rock predecessors. In Titus Andronicus’ booziest anthem to date, ‘Theme From “Cheers“‘, lead singer Patrick Stickles sings, “Down in North Carolina I could’ve been / A productive member of society / But these New Jersey cigarettes and all they require / Have made a fucking junkie out of me” Prior to this part of the song, New Jersey native Dan McGee of the North Carolina based band Spider Bags can be heard singing a verse on the track as well. A friend of McGee’s, Stickles has repeatedly touted Spider Bags as “the greatest band in the world”, so it comes as no surprise that Titus Andronicus chose to cover one of their songs during a Daytrotter Session back in 2008. A brutally honest account of drunken debauchery, emotional numbness, and the banishing of inner demons, “Waking Up Drunk”, is undoubtedly the highlight (or lowlight…it’s kind of a dark tune) on Spider Bags’ stellar 2007 release, ‘A Celebration of Hunger’. The harmonica riffs throughout Titus Andronicus’ cover add more sadness to the original, transforming it into more than just a drinking song. Whiskey on his breath, Stickles’ trembling voice is raw with despair and drunken disillusionment, laden with more emotion than McGee’s rambling southern drawl can carry.
Listen to Titus’ take on Spider Bags here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwLXz-3T5mo
Look out for the Volume III of Uncovered coming soon!